Why I chose to study mechanical engineering

mechanical engineering students

Why study mechanical engineering?

I chose to study mechanical engineering because I’ve always had a fascination with and love for mathematics. I also wanted my work to produce something tangible and to have outcomes that could be observed and help to solve problems. Engineering seemed like the best way to combine the fundamentally logical and analytical aspects of mathematics I loved while maintaining a firm grasp on reality and real-life solutions.

I’ve always wanted to have some sort of impact on the world and engineering seemed like the best tool with which I could affect genuine change in people’s lives. Finally, my academic tastes have always been eclectic, and engineering taps into so many different skillsets, including chemistry, physics and English. Mechanical engineering seemed like the best opportunity for me to develop my knowledge in the widest variety of ways.

Why I chose Leeds University

I fell in love with Leeds on the open day, the city is incredible (by far the best I’ve lived in), and it was during the open day that I decided it was mechanical engineering I wanted to study. I’d wandered into the hall for mechanical engineering on a whim (at this point I still thought I wanted to do mathematics), and an hour later it was abundantly clear to me that this was the subject I wanted to do, and Leeds was where I wanted to study it.

If I hadn’t achieved the right grades I would have retaken and reapplied because I just knew that Leeds was where I wanted to be. The course also looked amazing; with the buggy and turbine projects in second year more hands-on and involved than anything I’d seen elsewhere. The buggy project requires the design and build of a small autonomous vehicle (and its controls!) to traverse an 8m course of adverse terrain. The turbine project utilizes 3d printing to create blades and nozzles as you build an optimised waterwheel to extract maximum power from a head of water.

Why Leeds University has one of the best mechanical engineering courses

The contact time for mechanical engineering at Leeds is around 15-20 hours a week depending on how many labs or projects you have on at the time. This will probably be about 14-15 hours of lectures and example classes and 4-6 hours of lab work. There aren’t really any seminars in first year, but you will have a weekly tutorial that rotates modules and provides an opportunity for some more focused teaching and feedback. Your tutor groups are the same as the teams you’ll be in for the group projects, and typically have 5-7 people in them. Get the team-building in early, as you’ll need to get along! In the ‘build weeks’ of projects (about 4 a year) you won’t have any other contact hours but you’ll need to make the most of those you have in the lab (maybe 15).

The workload is pretty manageable, you’ll have 4-5 class tests and 4-5 labs a semester. The class tests aren’t too bad, the key will be staying on top of whatever example sheets you’re given in the weeks leading up. There’s no requirement to hand in or any assessment of such problem sheets so you’ll need to keep yourself motivated!

Similarly, the labs aren’t overwhelming, just make sure you allocate work fairly when working on a group report and it’s a matter of getting the generic bits done early (you’ll often have extra learning after the practical and before hand-in that you’ll need to complete the lab). The group projects were always the biggest source of anxiety for me, and by their very nature they’ll always come down to the wire. Get the other stuff done before these reach critical mass as they are likely to occupy an entire week of late nights and hair-pulling before hand-in.

The course at Leeds is pretty tightly structured so there’s not much room for choice in terms of modules. All the modules for the first years are pre-determined and compulsory, although you can sometimes have a little wiggle room on which group project you’d like to do (e.g. buggy vs glider) – however, this will also be dependent on numbers and uptake.

Socialising at Leeds uni

There is a Mechanical Engineering society which has socials a couple of times a semester. These include Otley runs (a famous Leeds pub crawl), and they also throw a Christmas and spring ball that I’m reliably informed is a chuckle. I played for the mechanical engineering rugby team, which provides an excellent alternative to those who are keen to play rugby but aren’t up for the commitment or culture required by the official university teams. I had a couple of brilliant socials first year with the guys too so would definitely recommend. The rugby team is completely open, but the society also offers a football team that requires try-outs.

My favourite thing about studying mechanical engineering at Leeds is that the projects offered seem more involved and exciting than those at other universities: the elastic buggy, the palpatronix tumor detection and the bridge busting were all highlights of first year. Additionally, I think the teaching on the course is outstanding. It can be tough to find professors who are passionate about their subjects AND are also good teachers and – while not all make the cut – the overwhelming proportion of tutors are excellent and provide great notes to supplement their teaching, which are crucial when prepping for finals. Lastly, I love the city. It’s just an amazing place to live and be a student.

Written by - Alec S.

Studying mechanical engineering at Leeds University